How You Can Truly Learn Japanese From Manga (Master Guide)

How You Can Truly Learn Japanese From Manga - The Manga Master Guide. Picture of Jujutsu Kaisen, One Piece, Naruto, Death Note, and Demon Slayer Manga.

If you’re a manga fan, you’ve likely wondered if it’s possible to learn Japanese by reading manga. Fortunately, I have some awesome news for you: It is indeed possible! You can successfully learn Japanese from manga. I personally have successfully expanded my vocabulary through manga. Here’s why.

Reading manga is a fun and immersive approach to learning Japanese. Regular reading helps you acquire new words and useful phrases. It’s also one of the best methods for getting used to kanji and learning them in context. However, beginners should be cautious not to develop incorrect pronunciation.

I hope this has you excited and ready to begin learning Japanese with manga. It’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind as you use manga for language learning, though. So read on if you want to discover the secrets to learning Japanese through manga efficiently.

Why You Can Successfully Learn Japanese From Manga

As previously discussed in our sister master guide on how you can learn Japanese from anime, the top 3 keys to successfully learning Japanese are motivation, consistency, and immersion.

The top 3 keys to successfully learning Japanese are:
Motivation, consistency, and immersion.

This goes hand-in-hand with one of the most important rules of language learning. The more input and exposure you have to Japanese or any other language you want to learn, the more you will learn.

When you really love manga, you don’t need to push yourself to open and look at them. You will find yourself highly motivated to immerse in each manga volume and nobody will be able to stop you from reading the next page or the next chapter.

Your interest in the story of the manga and your curiosity about how it will end can help you develop good study habits and naturally maintain a consistent Japanese learning routine, often more effectively than a dry textbook can.

Moreover, many polyglots and language learning experts consider reading as one of the best ways to acquire new words and phrases, allowing you to naturally expand your vocabulary and learn them in context.

In the case of Japanese, it is also one of the best approaches to learning kanji and getting used to seeing, reading, and pronouncing them since most manga have furigana (small kana provided as a reading aid to tell you the kanji’s pronunciation) next to each character.

Reading manga is one of the most efficient and easist ways to learn kanji and acquire new words in context.

So with manga, beginners can not only develop essential language-learning skills like comprehension and reading but also intermediate and advanced learners can improve their vocabulary base and kanji knowledge by reading them.

However, since reading manga doesn’t provide you with any exposure to spoken Japanese it is best to supplement your studies with other resources and methods. Use music, videos on Youtube, anime, movies, video games, and actual conversations with native speakers to surround yourself with spoken Japanese.

Step By Step Guide For Learning Japanese Through Manga

While it is possible to just get yourself a manga and start learning Japanese by reading it, without any prior knowledge of Japanese it’s a rather challenging task that can become frustrating really quickly.

That’s why, when you are a beginner, it is usually easier and more rewarding to start with listening. You are also less likely to develop any bad or wrong habits because you will hear the correct Japanese pronunciation of words and a natural intonation right from the start.

Listening to Japanese is easier than reading Japanese, especially for beginners.
It also helps you to develop correct pronunciation and a nice intonation.

So here are the exact steps that I would follow if I wanted to start learning Japanese through manga in the most efficient way without any prior Japanese knowledge:

  1. Learn the 104 hiragana syllables and how to pronounce them
    (writing can help you memorize them but it is not necessary)
  2. Learn to read katakana (pronunciation is the same as Hiragana)
  3. Watch 1 pronunciation lesson about the small tsu (っ, ッ) and long vowels
  4. Go through the manga sentence by sentence
  5. Read one complete sentence (read as much as you can and read out loud)
  6. Look up words you can’t read and you don’t know with an online dictionary like
  7. Listen to the correct pronunciation (yomikata) of each word with closed eyes and say it yourself
    (you can use a browser extension like Yomichan for example)
  8. If necessary repeat that step until you are comfortable saying them
  9. Google grammar explanations if necessary, but prioritize basic comprehension
  10. Read the complete sentence one more time (read it out loud)
  11. Add the words, phrases, and sentences you want to remember to Anki (for regular exposure)

While following this step-by-step guide you should always remember that your goal is not to understand every little nuance and all the bits and pieces of what’s written in the manga, especially when you have just started.

There will be many times when you will only understand the basic message or the main part of a sentence and that is completely okay. As long as you got the main point move on to the next part.

So focus on the following points:

  • become a fluent reader of hiragana and katakana
  • accurate pronunciation of words and phrases
  • learn fundamental and frequently used phrases
  • understand basic Japanese sentence structure
  • memorize commonly used words
  • getting a feel for natural Japanese

Once you are more advanced you can switch from intensive reading (going through the manga sentence by sentence) to extensive reading and start looking up new words and grammar explanations after reading a full page or maybe even a complete chapter.

Benefits & Challenges of Learning Japanese With Manga

As previously mentioned learning Japanese from manga has a lot of benefits.
Here are even more pros of using the manga approach to fluency:

  • it’s fun and the motivation to keep reading can be extremely high
  • it’s easy to carry them with you so you can read wherever you go
  • this makes it easy to follow a consistent study plan and routine
  • helps you naturally pick up new words and learn kanji in context
  • visuals provide context and clues making comprehension easier
  • practice reading hiragana, katakana, and kanji

If you are learning Japanese because you want to read the original Japanese version of your favorite manga then this is definitely one of the best ways for you to study Japanese and you should include them into your study plan as soon as possible.

If your goal is it to read manga in Japanese fluently, start incorporating them into your study plan as soon as possible.

However, I also want you to understand the challenges that you will be faced with when using this approach.

  • the lack of exposure to spoken Japanese might lead to mispronunciation
  • there are no possibilities to practice and improve your listening skills
  • does not provide a structured approach to learning Japanese grammar
  • more likely to learn informal language and slang than formal Japanese
  • difficult kanji may slow you down and hinder your progress and motivation
  • that might cause you to just look through the manga instead of reading it

You can overcome these challenges with my manga learning pages and the following tips, though!

6 More Tips For Learning Japanese With Manga

With my step-by-step guide above, you are already good to go and you can immediately start learning Japanese by reading manga. However, if you want to get the most out of learning Japanese with manga, here are 6 more tips.

1. Choose The Right Manga

Select a manga that you will enjoy reading and that not only matches your current language skills but also includes the things you want to be able to do and understand in Japanese (formal Japanese vs. casual Japanese, daily conversation vs. fantasy and sci-fi).

The “best” manga is a manga that you are dying to read but that’s not too difficult and not too easy.

And honestly, that is extremely difficult to find.

So don’t bother too much and don’t spend too much time on finding that “bestmanga.

Just choose something that you are interested in and that will help maintain your motivation.

That’s more important than anything else!

2. Watch First or Simultaneously

You have certainly hit a jackpot when your favorite manga has an anime or maybe even a live-action adaptation.

Simultaneously reading the manga and watching the anime allows you to practice your listening skills with the anime while enhancing your reading skills with the manga. Of course, you can also watch the anime first and read the manga afterward.

The double-exposure will also help you learn and memorize the words and phrases you encounter more easily.

3. Journaling & Taking Notes

Writing down new words and phrases that you encounter in the manga can help you tremendously with memorizing them.

You can just write them down somewhere or type them once on your phone or your PC when looking them up. Or you spend some time after reading to note down important words in a journal or something similar.

You could use a language learning app, a Godlist (source), or flashcards.
Use whatever you like. I personally use Anki and I can highly recommend it.

When doing this, remember that writing kanji is a skill of lesser importance, also for those of you who are dreaming of or are planning to live in Japan.

So noting them down in hiragana should be sufficient or even just typing them on your phone or PC a couple of times. That’s what I usually do because that’s how I “write” Japanese 99% of the time here in Japan.

4. Read Again

Reading your favorite chapters and your favorite manga again until you can read them smoothly is a great way to further improve your reading skills.

It is not uncommon to notice something new or to pick up and understand a certain nuance even after the 10th or 20th time you are reading the same part.

You might be able to immediately recognize and read one more kanji or grasp one more word which is a great way to keep track of your progress. It might also make you even more motivated.

Turn it into a game or a fun mission. How long or how many times will it take you until you can read the whole chapter or the whole manga volume in one sitting and without looking up anything?

5. Embrace the Unknown and Move On

There’s one caveat, though.

Please don’t try too hard to understand everything and never ever expect or demand perfect comprehension.

At the beginning of their language learning journey, many learners struggle with the desire to understand everything, which can often hinder comprehension and improvement.

Sometimes, you will only grasp 40-60%, and that’s perfectly fine.
Sometimes, you will only understand 20-40%, and that’s also fine.

You have to accept the fact and you have to keep going or you will get stuck.
And have faith that, in the end, you will be able to figure it out, just like Conan.

Remember that you can always come back. Next time you will have a higher level and you will be able to understand more or maybe even everything. If not next time, it will be next, next time.

Learning Japanese is a gradual process and a journey, more like a roller coaster ride than a race.

So embrace the uncertainty and move on to the next page, chapter, or manga.

6. Switch It Up

While any type of manga can be a valuable resource for learning Japanese, it is important to switch it up and try out new stuff from time to time.

When you are already able to understand every little jujutsu or magic spell and you can form all the ninja hand signs in your sleep, it might be a good idea and the perfect time to check out another manga genre.

Take some time to take a look at where you are in your language journey, what you can do in Japanese right now, and what you want to be able to do. Identify the gap and work towards closing it.

It’s always a good idea to supplement your preferred language learning tool with other methods and to diversify your learning sources. So consider learning Japanese with anime and include speaking and writing exercises for a well-rounded study routine and learning strategy.

Everyone can learn Japanese! You can learn Japanese ♡
So enjoy learning Japanese from manga.
頑張ってね ٩(⌒ω⌒)੭⁾⁾

Alex (⌒‐⌒)♡


おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you want to practice your Japanese for free follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram.

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